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Families

Which Family is it in?

You can make an initial guess about a butterfly's Family simply from the size and general colour of a butterfly.

If it is big (4 to 10 cm or more) it is either a Swallowtail, a White/Sulphur or a Nymph/Brown/Danaine

 

Family Nymphalinae: Nymphs, Browns

and Danaines

If it is big and mainly orange or brown with black, and maybe a bit of white or yellow, it is probably in this Family. For example, this is a male Common Brown

 

Family Pierinae: Whites and Sulfurs

If it is big, and white or yellow above, with or without grey or black, it is probably a White/Sulfur, for example the very common Cabbage White at the right.

 
 

Familiy Papilioninae: Swallowtails

If it is big and it is not in either of the two Families above, it is a Swallowtail, such as the female Orchard Butterfly on the right. Most of the Australian Swallowtails don't actually have tails. Probably the best known is the Blue Ulysses from North Queensland

 

If it is small (< 5 cm) it is a Skipper/Flat/Awl/Darter or a Blue/Hairstreak/Copper

 If it is small and mostly brown, orange, or black, and it flies very quickly it is a Skipper etc. 
 If it is small and blue, grey or black it is in the Family of Blues and Hairstreaks. 
 If it is small and copper-coloured it is a copper. Coppers look and behave a lot like skippers (some are fast flying), so keep an open mind. 

There are two large blues in the NSW South Coast region which are almost 50 mm across, and so "big" in these terms. They fly rapidly around the tops of trees, often on hilltops, and look more black than blue. These are Azures, and are not figured on this website because they are too quick for my camera!